A recent article from the Nation outlines how tech firms such as Google harvest personal data from people without transparency or regulation.
An article from the Nation titled “Google Is Coming for Your Face” outlines how tech firms such as Google are collecting personal data and information from individuals with little to no oversight or regulation.
The Nation writes:
Last week, The New York Times reported on the federal government’s plans to collect DNA samples from people in immigration custody, including asylum seekers. This is an infringement of civil rights and privacy, and opens the door to further misuse of data in the long term. There is no reason for people in custody to consent to this collection of personal data. Nor is there any clarity on the limits on how this data may be used in the future. The DNA samples will go into the FBI’s criminal database, even though requesting asylum is not a crime and entering the country illegally is only a misdemeanor. That makes the practice not only an invasion of privacy in the present but also potentially a way to skew statistics and arguments in debates over immigration in the future.
The collection of immigrant DNA is not an isolated policy. All around the world, personal data is harvested from the most vulnerable populations, without transparency, regulation, or principles. It’s a pattern we should all be concerned about, because it continues right up to the user agreements we click on again and again.
The Nation notes that although tech firms are primarily collecting data from immigrant and detained populations, the firms are also targeting U.S. Citizens as well:
Unprincipled data collection is not limited to refugee populations. The New York Daily News reported on Wednesday that Google has been using temporary employees, paid through a third party, to collect facial scans of dark-skinned people in an attempt to better balance its facial recognition database. According to the article, temporary workers were told “to go after people of color, conceal the fact that people’s faces were being recorded and even lie to maximize their data collections.” Target populations included homeless people and students. They were offered a five-dollar gift card (which is more than refugees and immigrant detainees get for their data) but, critically, were never informed about how the facial scans would be used, stored, or, apparently, collected.
The Nation urges readers to note that while “vulnerable” groups are being targeted primarily, many people routinely give up their private information voluntarily and should be more wary of doing so:
Like the subjects of Google’s unethical facial scans and the recipients of biometric identity cards in refugee camps, we have little control over how the data is used once we’ve given it up, and no meaningful metric for deciding when giving up our information becomes a worthwhile trade-off. We should be shocked by how companies and governments are abusing the data and privacy rights of the most vulnerable groups and individuals. But we should also recognize that it’s not so different from the compromises we are all routinely asked to make ourselves.
Read the full article in the Nation here.